Airgas: a successful customer-centric approach
A number of milestones were achieved in 2018 by Airgas, Air Liquide’s U.S. based subsidiary, acquired by the Group in 2016. The 300 million-US dollar target of cumulated synergies was reached in the 1st quarter of 2019, more than a year ahead of schedule, confirming the success of this operation. Thanks to its unique multi-channel approach, including e-commerce, telesales teams, and a large network of more than 950 retail branches, Airgas is well positioned to capture growth opportunities.
A symbolic milestone was achieved in 2018 with the 500th acquisition in Airgas’ history – a perfect illustration of its successful development model aimed at strengthening its network and proximity with local customers to grow. The company went one step forward in customer-centricity with the expansion of its Welding Efficiency Analysis program, which helps customers evaluate and improve their welding processes, allowing them to be more competitive in their market. Based on decades of experience and customer data from around the country and across many industries, this program includes onsite analysis and offsite courses to help customers boost quality, productivity and profitability.
Another example of Airgas' successful customer-centric approach is the ‘one-stop shop’ developed by the company to provide customers coast to coast with a complete package – gases, equipment, safety products and services – to streamline their operations. This approach is a competitive asset for the company.
transactions in 2018
deliveries in 2018
Large Industries: helping our customers grow
Chemical and petrochemical industries on the Gulf Coast are ramping up, requiring fast-growing volumes of industrial gases. This positive momentum has led to several large contract wins in 2018 with major customers in key industrial basins. Air Liquide’s assets, including its extensive Gulf Coast pipeline network, allow these high capacity needs to be met with a high level of reliability. Two long-term contracts were signed with LyondellBasell, one of the world’s largest plastics, chemicals and refining companies: the first will supply oxygen for a new petrochemical plant, currently under construction in Channelview, Texas; the second will supply the plant with steam, electricity, treated water and nitrogen to another LyondellBasell unit located in the Bayport area.
Several large contract wins in 2018 with major customers in key industrial basins
Another major milestone was reached in 2018 with the ramp-up of the Natgasoline’s methanol plant in Beaumont, Texas – the largest in North America to date. This plant includes Air Liquide’s full know-how, from unit design and construction to the production of oxygen, nitrogen and argon. It also integrates the Group’s proprietary MegaMethanol™ technology which converts natural gas to methanol.
To further increase the reliability, efficiency and flexibility of its supply, in 2018 Air Liquide accelerated the deployment of its Smart Innovative Operations program (see page 19), which leverages the latest advances in digital technology to transform the way the Group operates its production units and to reach the next step of operational excellence. More than 65 production units in the US are now remotely monitored, and focusing for example on predictive maintenance. More than 650 predictive analytics models have been developed and implemented to help identify and prevent maintenance issues before they impact customers. The Group can therefore better anticipate and meet the needs of its customers, 24/7.
Preparing the future
To help its customers face their operational challenges, Air Liquide relies on a unique open innovation approach and a worldwide network of Innovation Campuses. In November 2018, the Group opened an Advanced Fabrication Center at its Delaware Innovation Campus.
A manufacturing expertise center with advanced training, testing and development platforms, the center involves customers and industrial partners early in the innovation process to accelerate the development of added-value solutions – from finding optimal process gas compositions to augmenting process efficiency and operational safety, health and sustainability
The center benefits from Air Liquide’s innovation capacity and Airgas’ deep market knowledge and customer base. Located at the heart of the world’s largest metal manufacturing market, it will allow new solutions in innovative fields such as advanced plasma cutting, cobotic welding (discipline focusing on direct or remote interaction between an operator and a robotic system) and additive manufacturing to be brought to market rapidly.
Towards a new low-carbon society
Beyond the development of innovative solutions to meet its customers’ needs, Air Liquide is paving the way for the emergence of a new low-carbon society, in particular thanks to its leading role in the development of hydrogen production and applications. The Group will invest over 150 million U.S. dollars to build the first world scale liquid hydrogen production unit dedicated to the hydrogen energy markets. Located in the western U.S., the plant will have a capacity of nearly 30 tons of liquid hydrogen per day – an amount that can fuel 35,000 Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEV). Through this investment, Air Liquide will enable the large-scale deployment of hydrogen-powered mobility on the West Coast, providing a reliable supply solution to help fuel the 40,000 FCEVs expected on the roads of California by 2022.